I did learn a few things in October while spending 2 weeks in the hospital – 1 week in ICU and 1 week on a regular floor. Here are a few observations and tips for surviving the hospital environment:
1. As lousy as hospital stays are, the more humor you are able to retain, the better. Laughing will not only help you heal, it will endear you to hospital staff and they will see you as a person, not just a patient.
2. NG tubes go down much easier when you are dehydrated. Gulping the liquid they give you is so comforting that you don’t notice the tube going through your nose, throat, and into your stomach.
3. It’s kinda amusing to measure the amount of goop that comes out of your stomach through the tube in your nose. When you comment on the color of it to the nurses, they look at you funny. Example: “You know, that greenish-black color would look great on the walls in my study.”
4. The “PIC line” they put in the right arm and strings to your heart really doesn’t hurt. Mine was purple. I saw it when they removed it the day I was discharged.
5. The catheter is actually a very nice feature. I didn’t realize what a pain it was to keep track of having to pee until they took it out! Once out of ICU, you don’t move as fast as you used to. Potty trips require a couple of minutes of advance planning.
6. The TPN (liquid food) bag was my nutrition for 10 days. I referred to it as my “cheeseburger and Amstel Light.” When it got low, I told the nurse that I wanted another cheeseburger. Got a few laughs. Surprisingly, I never craved food.
7. The showers are the size of a phone booth (remember those?) and the water pressure and temperature control is not guaranteed. Sponge baths aren’t so bad.
8. If you are moved to a floor with bariatric patients going through the lap band procedure, you will see several wheelchairs that are supersized. Don’t make any smartass comments about them because more than likely an humungous patient will be right behind you. (Awkward moment!).
9. When people call the phone in your hospital room, if you answer “Domino’s Pizza, would you like the 5 for 1 special today?” the caller will pause, maybe hang up or yell at you. It is usually a florist calling to see if you are still alive before they deliver flowers.
10. They don’t like you to use your Blackberry in ICU, but I did not find that it interfered with the machines like they said it would.
11. If you want to do something you aren’t supposed to, tell whomever is sitting with you in the room that you are tired and your back to him/her. Then, you can sneak your phone/blackberry/notebook from under your pillow and communicate with the outside world. I got busted with this technique, however. My heart rate would elevate and my mother would catch that on the monitor and then yank it from my hands.
12. Keep a Journal book or spiral notebook in your room with a page for each date you are in the hospital. Keep brief notes from doctor comments/explanations, visitors, anything profound you say while “under the influence.” Also, it is a good place to write down questions that come time mind between doctor visits.
13. Things to pack in your hospital bag:
a. Saran wrap – to wrap up the IV line hookups in your arms so you can take a very awkward shower while attached to various life-saving devices. You will need some help, so don’t be embarrassed.
b. Rain slicker – for your shower assistant. If s/he helps you get situated in the shower, s/he will most likely get soaked even when standing on the other side of the curtain. My mom got soaked the first time without a clean shirt to change into.
c. iPod or CD player & CDs – One can only watch the maternity channel so many times without wanting to hurl. Also, sometimes I was too tired to read or watch TV, yet wanted some friendly sound to drown out the beeps.
d. Treats for the nurses and medical staff. Keep some candies handy on the bed tray. They love junk food and seem to respond quickly when you beep for them.
e. Pleasant smelling room freshener to eliminate that “hospital smell.”
f. Your favorite pillow(s) and several fresh pillow cases (preferably not white). While the tread count is obviously different, the cleaning folks who change the sheets won’t pay attention.
g. Comforter/blanket and pillow for your loved one who camps with you. The furniture for the loved one who stays are often horribly uncomfortable, so s/he may need to do some yoga to get situated in the chairs to sleep.
h. Chewing gum – sometimes it feels good to chew on something even though you can’t eat.
i. Baby powder and your favorite lotions. Your backside WILL get sore and the skin on your back and lower back will get a bit funky. The baby powder helps bring some relief.
j. Bathrobe – when you are able to get up and walk, you will want to cover your backside as you walk down the halls (those lovely hospital wraps don’t quite do it).